LOS ANGELES — Over the last few weeks, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has expressed his displeasure with the quality of his team’s situational at-bats. With the talent on the roster, that’s something the Dodgers have excelled at in the past.
But in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Guardians in 10 innings on Friday night at Dodger Stadium, those issues were once again magnified as Los Angeles went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
“We talk about it. We have meetings about it. We prepare for it. Sometimes in the moment, it just doesn’t happen,” said Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger, who homered in the second inning. “Obviously, we’re a really talented team and we expect to get the job done. For sure.”
So far in June, the high-powered Dodgers offense hasn’t gotten the job done, particularly with runners in scoring position. Over the weekend against the Giants, the Dodgers went nearly two games without getting a hit with runners in scoring position. That prompted Roberts to publicly call out his team, searching for better at-bats.
In the two-game series against the Angels, the Dodgers were optimistic that the tide was close to turning. But on Friday, Los Angeles took another step back. In the 10th, the Dodgers began the inning with speedy Trea Turner on second base. Freddie Freeman struck out to begin the inning and Will Smith grounded out to third. Following a Max Muncy walk, Justin Turner, who is hitting .206 this season, struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Dodgers have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their last six games. They also dropped to 0-5 in extra-inning games this season, which is difficult to explain for a team with this much talent on the offensive side.
“We’re not doing a good job moving that guy to third base to then create a situational opportunity,” Roberts said. “Tonight you saw that with [Cleveland], they did a nice job of that and it ended up being a sac fly to drive in the winning run. Those are little things that certainly are magnified when you don’t score a bunch of runs. And in extra innings, we haven’t been good at it.”
To make matters worse for a struggling Dodgers’ offense, star outfielder Mookie Betts was a late scratch on Friday as he experienced “residual soreness” from a collision he had with Bellinger in the outfield on Wednesday. Betts’ X-rays came back negative, but he’s scheduled to get a CT scan on Saturday to make sure that there’s no damage.
“There’s pain while throwing, pain while swinging, but we feel if we do all the testing and all the due diligence, then we can kind of know more,” Roberts said before the game. “He’s day to day and not available today.”
The lone positive for the Dodgers on Friday was Clayton Kershaw’s performance. In his second start back from the injured list, the left-hander allowed one run on five hits and got through five innings. That should allow him to get into the sixth inning in his next start, getting him closer to being at full strength. He threw 81 pitches.
“It’s hard to maintain not only your pitch count, still building that back up, but also just making sure all your pitches are how you want them to be,” Kershaw said. “This [start] I knew what I needed to work on, saw some improvement with that. I feel like I’m getting closer to where I want to be.”
Unlike Kershaw, the Dodgers’ offense is still trying to find itself. For a lineup that came into the season with lofty expectations, they’ve struggled to find consistency through 63 games. They still have nearly 100 games to figure things out, but with the Padres and Giants posing a real threat in the division, they’ll need the elite offense to return sooner rather than later.
“We’re going to go through ups, going to go through downs,” Bellinger said. “Overall, we know we would all like to play better and score more runs and that’s obviously the goal. It’s not a lack of effort, or lack of preparation. It’s just how the game goes sometimes. Obviously, we all want to be better though.”